2019 M. NCAA Previews: Foreigners Keep Top-3 Stranglehold in 200 Fly

2019 DI MEN’S NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS

200 BUTTERFLY:

  • NCAA Record: Jack Conger (Texas), 2017, 1:37.35
  • American Record: Jack Conger (Texas), 2017, 1:37.35
  • U.S. Open Record: Jack Conger (Texas), 2017, 1:37.35
  • Meet Record: Jack Conger (Texas), 2017, 1:37.35
  • 2018 Champion: Andreas Vazaios (NC State), 1:38.60

Andreas Vazaios, Quah Zheng, and Vini Lanza rank 3, 4, and 5, respectively, among the top performers all-time in the men’s 200 yard butterfly. Of the three, Lanza is the only one who has elevated himself within the all-time ranks this season–meaning he is the only one to have achieved a lifetime best this season–with a 1:39.28 from the 2019 B1G Championships. Even so, Vazaios is the defending NCAA Champion, and alongside Zheng, one of only two returning performers to ever crack 1:39 in the race. The other two–Texas alumni Jack Conger and Joe Schooling–have both graduated.

Vini Lanza is among the most well-rounded swimmers in the NCAA in 2019. At present, Lanza is ranked 2nd in the 200 IM, 2nd in the 100 fly, and 1st in the 200 fly. In 2018, Lanza placed 3rd in both the 100 and 200 fly and 6th in the 200 IM. He followed up the short course success with a breakthrough summer which culminated in winning the bronze medal in the 100 fly at the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships in Tokyo behind Americans Conger and Dressel. Lanza has the hot hand going into this year’s championships, but it wouldn’t be the NCAA Championships if there wasn’t an upset or two. Enter NC State’s Andreas Vazaios.

Last March, Vazaios crushed his lifetime best in the 200 fly and won the event by a sound 0.95 over Florida’s Switkowski. Before the 2018 NCAA Championships, Vazaios’ best time in the 200 fly stood at 1:40.77. In prelims, he lowered that time to 1:39.68, and then in finals to 1:38.60, making him the 3rd-fastest performer all-time. Unlike most 200 butterflyers, Vazaios will not be competing in the 100 fly at NCAAs, opting instead for the 200 IM and the 100 backstroke. Though Vazaios was upset in the 200 fly at the 2019 ACC Championships by sophomore Nick Albiero, it is worth noting that even an unshaved Vazaios still managed to swim the 5th-fastest 200 fly of his career, and best his time from the same meet in 2018 by over 1.3 seconds.

Once considered the heir-apparent in the 200 yard butterfly after fellow countryman Joe Schooling, Singaporean Zheng Quah is having a comeback season of sorts in 2019. After a remarkable NCAA debut in 2017, Quah was a little off his lifetime best in the 200 fly in 2018, though he still managed a 6th-place finish in 1:40.70. That time, however, was a far cry from his 2017 silver medal effort of 1:38.83, which qualifies him as the 4th-fastest performer all-time. This season, Quah has already been 1:39.29, just 1/100th behind top-seed Lanza. A return to form and potential improvement upon his lifetime best could be all Quah needs to crack the top-3 again, or even win.

Mike Thomas 200 fly prelims 2017 Arena Pro Swim Series Santa Clara, California (photo: Mike Lewis)

Last year, four men, including Vazaios and Lanza, broke 1:40 in the 200 fly ‘A’ final. Though Florida’s Jan Switkowski has graduated, California’s Mike Thomas, who placed 4th last season in 1:39.95, returns this year as the 11th seed with a 1:41.29 from the UGA Fall Invite in December. That time is a mere 0.07 off the time he went at the 2017 UGA Fall Invite. Despite his 11th-seed ranking, Thomas boasts the 4th-fastest personal best in the field, and was significantly faster at Pac-12s this year than in 2018, posting a 1:42.17 in 2019 versus a 1:43.28 in 2019.  Taking that into consideration, Thomas is likely in for a major time drop at NCAAs, and possibly a return to the ‘A’ final.

Georgia sophomore Camden Murphy and Louisville sophomore Nick Albiero both distinguished themselves at their respective conference championships in February, and also snuck onto the list of top-25 performers all-time in the 200 fly. Murphy, with his 1:40.62 now ranks 20th all-time, while Albiero with 1:40.70 holds down the 23rd position all-time. Between them a tie for 21st with Towson senior Jack Saunderson and Cal sophomore Trenton Julian. Like Murphy and Albiero, Saunderson’s best time also comes from February and the 2019 CAA Champs, while Julian’s best time comes from the 2018 NCAA Championships, where the then-freshman placed 7th in 1:40.81 after going 1:40.63 in prelims. Additionally, Saunderson had a very successful long course season, posting a 51.48 in the prelims of the 100 fly at last July’s 2018 USA Swimmer Summer Nationals, as well as a 1:56.74 in the 200.

Zach Harting by Mike Lewis

Like Saunderson, Louisville’s Zach Harting has had much greater success in long course than in short course yards. At the 2018 Pan Pacific Championships, Harting swam a 1:55.05 in the 200 fly, good enough for bronze. Harting’s fastest 200 yard fly, on the other hand, is 1:41.54–his 1:41.08 seed time is a converted time from the 2018 SCM World Championships, where he swam a 1:51.57 for 5th. Harting is seeded 9th going into this year’s competition, though his true season-best 1:42.00 from ACCs would only rank him 24th. Last year, Harting tied for 13th with South Carolina’s Fynn Minuth, ranked 13th this year with a 1:41.49. If Harting can truly swim at his converted time, he will be on the cusp of the ‘A’ final.

Florida junior Maxime Rooney has always been good at butterfly, but wasn’t really considered a true butterflyer until this year’s SEC Championships, where he put the NCAA on watch with a pair of eye-popping performances. First, in the 100, Rooney surged to victory, touching the wall in 45.06, getting the better of Auburn’s Liam McCloskey and Georgia’s Murphy. In the 200, Murphy came out on top, touching 1:40.62 to Rooney’s 1:40.87. Though Rooney may not have won the race, his time still ranks him 7th going into this week’s competition. Rooney will face another sort of challenge though: he is doubling up with the 100 free and 200 fly on the final day of the Championship. The 100 free will come first, and the 200 fly last, though Rooney will also have to swim the 400 free relay–perhaps finals only, but we can’t say for certain yet. In any case, Rooney’s 200 fly will be one to watch.

Ohio State’s Noah Lense blew up at the 2019 B1G Championships, where he dropped a 1:40.36 in the 200 fly to become the 16th-fastest performer in history. Lense’s performance is impressive also because it came as a significant time drop from his previous lifetime best of 1:40.86, done at the 2018 B1G Championships. Despite the fast conference swim in 2018, Lense added nearly 2.5 seconds at NCAAs and placed 27th. If he can manage to equal or improve upon his Big Ten performance, Lense should be safely into the ‘A’ final.

Top 8 Picks:

Place Swimmer Team Season Best Lifetime Best
1 Vini Lanza Indiana 1:39.28 1:39.28
2 Andreas Vazaios NC State 1:41.03 1:38.60
3 Zheng Quah Cal 1:39.29 1:38.83
4 Mike Thomas Cal 1:41.29 1:39.95
5 Camden Murphy Georgia 1:40.62 1:40.62
6 Jack Saunderson Towson 1:40.63 1:40.63
7 Noah Lense Ohio State 1:40.36 1:40.36
8 Nick Albiero Louisville 1:40.70 1:40.70

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CraigH

I always forget that that Vini Lanza is foreign. Based off his name, I always feel like he should be from the Jersey Shore.

IU Swammer

Haha. I only remember because some of the heat sheets/live results have his full first name—Vinicius.

googoodoll

Come on let’s see some of that Amerikun PRIDE surface. Googoodoll wants red-blooded American Manto take this one!!

Love to Swim

Who?

JP input is too short

Surprise Gianluca Urlando appearance!

Jabroni Pepperoni

Conger was so fast in 2017 he somehow one 2018?

About Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson

Reid Carlson originally hails from Clay Center, Kansas, where he began swimming at age six.  At age 14 he began swimming club year-round and later with his high school team, making state all four years.  He was fortunate enough to draw the attention of Kalamazoo College where he went on to …

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